A NEW BLOG!

Hi Everyone!

I wanted to announced that I will be OFFICIALLY transferring my blog over to my new dedicated domain which is hosted on blogger at MEDLABMAVEN.BLOGSPOT.CA

 

What does this mean for you? If you already have me bookmarked under medlabmaven.com, then nothing will change! If you have me under my wordpress domain, please update your bookmarks to medlabmaven.com :)

If you are a member of my email list: I will gradually be moving you over to my new subscriber list through FeedBurner. You will be receiving a confirmation email asking you to confirm your subscription through that! If you have already joined my new email list on blogspot, don’t worry, you won’t be added again.

All content is now on my new site! The site is currently live so go have a look! I have been working hard for the last few weeks to make my blog even better with more flexibility and features for the site and blogger was my best option to do this.

My first post will be going up tomorrow and I will gradually be closing down this site over the next few weeks to prevent confusion. Thank you for supporting me for the past 2 years on wordpress and I hope to see you over on my new site!

Sincerely,

Krista

Guest Blogger Jennifer O’Neill on Labcon 2014

My first guest poster is one of my good friends and fellow Michener Alum, Jennifer O’Neill! She worked closely on the Med Lab Students’ Society with me and this year she had the opportunity to experience Labcon 2014 thanks to the CSMLS Leaders of Tomorrow Grant. Since I had such a great experience when I went to Labcon in 2013 (which you can check out here), I asked her to write a post about her time at Labcon and hopefully encourage you to head to the next conference!   – K

———————————————————————————————————————————————

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to attend CSMLS Labcon2014 in sunny Saskatoon. The “sunny” part was an exaggeration as it rained everyday, but the conference was fantastic. I made new friends, heard talks about upcoming technology, and discussed current issues and new ideas within the medical laboratory profession. As a recent graduate, the networking experience was invaluable. I spoke to technologists from different departments across Canada, some working in areas I didn’t even realize we could work in.

Labcon 2014 — From CSMLS

I am going to give you just a few highlights from my weekend at Labcon2014. If you want to know more, you’ll have to experience it yourself!

One of my first sessions was Using Change Management in The Clinical Laboratory.  This talk by Susan McDonald from Siemens, gave a great explanation of how to handle change in the laboratory.  It was from the perspective of a workflow improvement manager, but I really felt that the advice given was applicable as a bench technologist as well.  She explained the “only thing constant in the lab is change” and provided tools and steps for embracing the inevitable evolution as labs alter their workflow and technology advances.

Generations 2.0 – Christine Neilsen’s talk about the differences in the generations currently working in laboratories across Canada was filled with advice I wish I had heard a couple of years ago. The talk described the professional habits and values of each generation and gave examples of how they interact with each other.  Throughout my limited experience in the laboratory I have definitely witnessed occasional moments of frustration from my Generation Y colleagues when speaking to those from older generations.   It was great to really see how different generations operate and hopefully help to dispel those “lazy” and “entitled” Gen Y myths.  Learning how to be mindful of the values of all colleagues, both older and younger, is crucial in maintaining a positive work environment.

Speaking of generation differences–there was a big focus this year on social media and how we can adapt this into laboratory culture. Joel Riverio (@thefirstjoel), instructor at NAIT in Alberta demonstrated how he engaged his students via social media to create a fun learning environment tailored to his media-focused students. As a twenty-something new graduate, I use social media to interact with my colleagues, share science news, find volunteering opportunities, as well as discuss advice and ideas with current MLT students.  I was excited to see how Joel and CSMLS are connecting Twitter and Facebook with the laboratory profession.  We work in an area where change is constant and having more ways to share what’s happening and keep everyone involved and engaged is a positive for everyone.  As social media isn’t going away any time soon, it’s important to embrace the
cultural shift towards it but also look for learning opportunities to educate everyone, on how to use social media appropriately.   I thought CSMLS did a great job this year with integrating social media into the various Labcon events. (#Labcon2014)

Used with permission from CSMLS

President’s Reception, Lisette Vienneau (CSMLS
Bilingual Director), Jennifer O’Neill (myself), Natalie Campbell (CSMLS President), and Jana Keogh, (fellow Leaders of Tomorrow winner), Photo by CSMLS, used with permission

The President’s Reception at the beautiful Delta Bessborough was fantastic.  I met so many great laboratory professionals from across Canada, who upon hearing I’m a new technologist had plenty of knowledge and advice to share with me.  It’s always great to hear all the “things I wish I knew when I started” from those with lots of experience.  The chance to discuss the profession, the talks we attended, and what the future holds for laboratory science was great. And since the Saskatoon Jazz Festival was nearby, we were treated to some John Legend music outside!

There were so many other great things about this weekend, I could go on forever–the exhibitors, the swag (I’ll never need to purchase a pen again!), talks about tissue banking, laboratory ethics, what’s new in hematology, etc.

I would not have been able to attend Labcon if it wasn’t for the CSMLS Leaders of Tomorrow Grant. This award (also won by Med Lab Maven herself last year), provided me with the means to attend and I highly encourage all current MLT students and recent graduates to apply for this award. Next year is in Montreal, QC so you know it will be an exciting conference!

On Getting a Job…

I’ve been anxiously waiting a little bit to make this post which contributed to my brief hiatus. I wanted to set into my job before blogging about it in case something horrible happened. Now that I have gotten over that worry, I wanted to share some bits and pieces about my first job as a Technologist!

Shortly after receiving my CSMLS results an opportunity present itself to interview for a full-time position in a Microbiology reference lab. Now for those who know me, this was basically my dream position. I have always wanted to work in Microbiology, combining my BSc with my technical training as an MLT.  Of course, being a very fresh new grad, I did not think I stood a chance to actually get the position but was thrilled to interview for it for the experience and to get my name out there, if nothing else. The interview went well and shortly after I got the email offering me the position!

The position itself covers a number of different departments. I currently work in the Tuberculosis lab processing, culturing and analyzing specimens – something not covered very in-depth in school! Everyday I process a variety of specimens ranging from tissues, pleural fluid, sputum and bronchial washings and then read the concentrate smears for acid fast bacilli via fluorescence microscopy. I recently completed my Level 3 training to work with pure cultures of mycobacteria grown in liquid media (MGIT) and solid media (Lowenstein- Jensen). The procedure to enter Level 3 is very tedious with many layers of scrubs, gloves, gowns and protective hood. I still think it blows my family’s minds that I wear a PAPR and a “moon suit” every day.

The much more spacious version of what I wear.

The TB lab is a very unique setting from other microbiology labs as it is so specialized. There are so many little things to know such as certain mycobacteria such as M.xenopi or M.gordonae grow in yellow balls in liquid media and may not be picked up by the machine. You have to carefully look at the tube media once it is taken out to make sure they are not missed. Also, I find it much more connected than other micro labs I have been in as I am constantly having to call physicians with positive results or speak directly with infection control practitioners who need results or have questions. I have already have to explain the processing procedure to a few interested physicians as well!

So far I am absolutely loving what I do and can feel the impact I am making on patients’ lives. I am thrilled that my first technologist job is one that I love and where I want to be right now. It can only get better from here!

-K

The Forgotten Healthcare Professionals

*Originally published on Seventhgrove.com here*

Your doctor hands you a requisition with a handful of boxes checked off for a variety of tests after your yearly (or whenever you remember to go) physical. CBC, HDL, Glucose, Electrolytes…. What? You have no idea what these mean. You go get your blood drawn then you either never hear back from your doctor if everything is okay or you do…your glucose result is high. You’re diabetic.

For most people this sounds fairly normal. Their doctor orders testing, they go to a collection centre, magic happens and they get results back! Poof! But what most people are missing where and how those results are generated. How does your physician know you’re diabetic? Those results are created by a key component to the health care system – Medical Laboratory Scientists.

Shockingly, most people have never heard of Medical Laboratory Scientists, despite the fact we are the 3rd largest Health Care profession behind Physicians and Nurses. I’ve even had residents, physicians, many nurses and other health care professionals have their eyes glaze when I tell them I’m a Medical Laboratory Scientist. Somehow we have become the “forgotten” profession behind closed doors.

But in honour of National Med Lab Week from April 20th – 26th, I’m going to let you in on the secret of what you need to know about Medical Laboratory Science and hopefully you’ll join me in thanking a hidden faction of healthcare.

Medical Laboratory Scientists are responsible for producing any and all results that leave the laboratory. Blood Glucose results to diagnose diabetes? That’s us. Mole removed due to suspected melanoma? We take that skin section, analyze it, process it and turn it into a thin slide for the pathologist. A baby presents in the ER and the physician suspects meningitis? We get a sample of spinal fluid to the lab – we culture it, identify the bacteria growing and tell the physician what antibiotics will work.

It’s been reported that 85% percent of physician diagnoses rely on laboratory results and laboratory professionals are the ones getting those results. I like to say we give physicians information of what the body is actually doing. It’s one thing for them to put symptoms and reported issues together but we give the full picture and the WHY of those symptoms, from finding cancerous blood cells to transfusion reactions.

For myself, becoming a Medical Laboratory Scientist was an easy decision. Throughout secondary and post-secondary education, I was pulled towards science subjects and getting into the lab was the next step. Everyday, I am required to think on my feet and problem-solve to ensure the results that are leaving the lab are accurate. This can mean 5 hours of machine maintenance, calibration, and quality control so I know that the critical 24.0 mmol/L glucose result leaving the lab is true. This can also mean performing testing, strategically monitoring and issuing blood products for a stroke code in 60 seconds flat. My days are never boring and affect the care of thousands of patients a day even if I don’t directly see them.

With all this, you can see how important and vital we are to the Health Care system. More and more diseases and conditions are being diagnosed via lab results and this number is only going to increase with more scientific developments. As a patient, being more informed about health care and the professionals involved is a great decision and will only help you to understand this complex system more.

Take time this week to show your support and thank a lab professional by going to bornlab.ca in Canada or http://www.ascp.org/labweek in the US. Everyone thanks their doctors and nurses for their cares but next time also try thanking a Laboratory Professional!

An Update for the 2014 MMIs

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from people looking for MMI tips so it must mean the MMIs at Michener are next week!

I recommend you checking out my past posts on the MMIs which includes, general tips, thoughts, study links etc for you to view before your interview. Best thing to remember is to stay calm and remember to follow the instructions!

MMI – General Tips

MMI – multiple Mini Interview Tips

MMI – The Actual Interview

MMI – Do I Shake Hands?

Good luck!

-K

Artificial Blood: In a Blood Bank Near You?

News broke yesterday of British Scientists with Wellcome Trust having successfully manufactured Red Blood Cells from Stem Cells.

The Stem Cells these scientists used are actually “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells” and as the article states, means they were cells that have been “rewound” back to become stem cells. Now for those of you who know your Hematopoesis charts, you know how Blood Cells are formed. For those who don’t, here’s a short review chart:

Hematopoesis

From this you can see that White Blood Cells (Myeloid), Red Blood Cells (Erythroid) and Platelets all come from a common progenitor cell. One could glean from this that we are perhaps not far off from having synthetically grown Platelets and WBCs that could be created a patient’s own cells or from a cell line without antigens present on the surface.

Benefits to this would be a completely reduced risk of HLA incompatibilities from Platelets or WBCs present in blood products as well as the ability to produced antigen compatible red cell units for patients with multiple antibodies.

Of course the other benefit would be having more blood available due to not having to rely on the generosity of donors to keep the blood supply well stocked. This would also reduce the amount of testing required on blood units and perhaps even increase the longevity of units!

More Links on Artificial Blood:

How Stuff Works

Romanian Scientist on Artificial Blood

-K

Important Mail and Exam Study Tips

On March 31st I received that fateful envelope from the CSMLS letting me know I passed the General MLT Exam – officially making me a Medical Laboratory Technologist! I’m excited to be able to put another set of letters behind my name ;)

It's Good!

It’s Good! I PASSED!

I’m sure my apartment mail man was annoyed at my stalking his van everyday and leaving work on my break to frantically drive home and check the mail. I honestly was overwhelmed with anxiety once I saw friends receiving their letters letting them know they passed! The next time I have to receive results by mail I’m going to move to that city so I can receive them faster (ok, maybe not) but I’m thrilled that I can finally say I am a Medical Laboratory Technologist!

 

Now for those of you writing in the near future you are probably thinking “shut up! get to the exam study tips!” And I will. But I want to put a disclaimer that you have to remember to take how you study into consideration. Some people prefer to study alone, some people like to write their own notes etc. You have to know you the best and structure your studying time wisely! First, I’m going to answer some questions I know I had before I started studying for the CSMLS exam.

When did you start studying?

It’s tough to say when exactly I started studying but I *officially* started studying with my planned method every night January 10th for my exam on February 20th. I was in clinical from September 3rd – February 7th and during this time I took my notes with me to the lab and studied during downtimes as well as I studied occasionally at night.

What did you use as a study guideline?

Print this out, frame it, make copies of it, tape it to walls – whatever you need to do to know it. The CSMLS Exam Handbook has the exact percentages of what types of questions you can expect to see. Obviously it’s not going to say “5 questions on Salmonella” but it does break down which concepts you can expect like QC, safety, transfusion application questions etc.

How did you structure your studying?

I laid out a calendar with what subject I would be studying each night per week. By January I knew which subjects I would need to be studying more than others. For me, Micro, Heme and Transfusion were my strong subjects (especially since I was ending my clinical on Transfusion) so I focused less on those topics and more on Chemistry, Histology, Lab Math and the Safety Manual.

Ensuring your studying is structured will help prevent yourself from getting too focused on one subject. You have to remember that the exam covers EVERYTHING and just because you might know one subject really well that doesn’t mean you should forget the other ones. In the same vein, you have to sometimes decide what you can and cannot learn in that amount of time. I know I had to forgo reviewing some topics because it was a lost cause at that point.

Nifty Study Calendar

Nifty Study Calendar

I highly recommend getting yourself a small calendar, printing one off the internet or getting a small flip pad to keep yourself organized and on track. I picked up this little flip pad for $1 at Target and it was one of my best purchases!

What were your study techniques?

Again, this is what worked for me and may not work for you.

First, I consolidated my notes into my own words on study sheets. This is a patented “Krista” method (even my classmates know that’s how I study) that I’ve been using since university and helps me digest more information quickly. I turn large PowerPoints into short form notes with key points I need to know rather than having to flip through the 107 slides per lecture we are given. This also makes me write out the information in my own words and hopefully helps it stick in my memory.

Second, I used cue cards to make small note books with testing information, reference ranges and even SHORTER versions of my study notes so I could carry a lot of information with me at once and use them as memory joggers. These were usefully as I got closer to the exam and just needed to refresh my memory or locate information quickly.

2 of my many cue card sets!

2 of my many cue card sets!

I also used the QUICK REVIEW CARDS (which are finally coming out with a new edition this year!). These things are magic and if you don’t want to consolidate your notes yourself I highly highly recommend them. They really have almost everything you should need to study everything except Histology since they are US cards for the ASCP exam. I did a full in-depth review last year which you can check out here.

Lastly, I studied with two classmates that I studied with during my 2nd semester of school via Google Hangouts. We all lived in different cities so doing it online was the best way and also allowed us to have all our notes with us without having to haul them to the library. I’ve talked about Google Hangouts before  and how I used them successfully to raise my grades and I’m a huge advocate for it.

We quizzed each other using our notes, quiz sets from Laboratory Review Books and LabCE.com, where you can play a free quiz game. Keep in mind LabCE is an American site so some of the questions are a little off but generally it’s a pretty good tool.

It has been shown in many studies that quizzing helps you to retain information better than you would without quizzing. It’s helping you to apply the knowledge you’ve learned and actually think about what you’ve read rather than just reciting it back. Another benefit to studying with others is they might have a stronger grasp on a concept than you and vice versa. You can help each other out and think of things in different ways which is only going to help you in the end!

At the end of all the studying when I got to the exam I felt very prepared and actually felt like I had *over-studied* some things. I was expecting questions on a few things that I didn’t see but there was the occasional surprise as well! The one thing to keep in mind is that if you’ve made it through your entire program and through clinical you are almost all the way there of being prepared.  You know more than you think you know and with proper studying and time management you can pass the exam too!

Congrats to those who passed and good luck to those writing!

-Krista, B.Sc, MLT

(Sorry I had to!)

Starting your Career: Searching for Jobs in the Lab

You’ve graduated, written the CSMLS exam and are now looking for your first job in the lab – but where to look? During my search over the past month, I’ve come across some handy tips and hints to help maximize your success and hopefully find that dream job you’ve worked so hard to obtain!

1. Your Clinical Site

If you’ve made it this far, then you had to have gone through clinical somewhere. Hopefully you’ve made a good impression and maybe you were already offered a job before you left which is great! But in some areas, the clinical sites are in a high demand area meaning they are not begging you to stay – but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job there! Since you did your placement you area already a step ahead on training a new hire.  Make sure to keep in touch with your clinical supervisor or department manager and let them know about your exam status. Most want to know how their past students are doing anyways. In this email or in person visit, make sure to forward a resume if you’re looking for employment.

2. Your School Career Fair

Most schools offer a career fair towards the end of the school year where a slew of employers come looking for new grads just like you. If you are employable or soon to be employed you are their prime target and can get a lot of great face time with an HR rep where you can ask questions you might not be able to ask if you were to apply online.

Tips for the career fair:

  • Dress well. No need to wear a suit but don’t look like you rolled out of bed.
  • Look at the list of attendees BEFORE you go so you know who you want to talk to and can plan accordingly.
  • Get a nice folder to keep resumes and any business cards you might get.
  • Prepare company specific cover letters for those you want to leave a resume with and prepare cover letter and resume packages for them specifically.
  • Bring extra copies of resumes and generic cover letters in case there is a new exhibitor or person to leave one with.
  • Ask questions! If someone isn’t hiring ask when they might be or how you can go about finding opportunities online.

3. Job Search Engines

Two of my favourite search engines I’ve been using have been indeed.ca and simplyhired.ca.

Indeed saves your 6 most recent searches and will alert you when there is a new posting the next time you visit. You can also set up email alerts for certain areas and job titles so you don’t miss anything! I find using a combination of searches for “Medical Laboratory Technologist” and “Laboratory” gives me piece of mind I haven’t missed anything.

Indeed Search

Example of Indeed Searches

Simplyhired.ca seems to find the job postings that Indeed can’t. They will alert me if a job positing is new within the last few days while Indeed will flag them as duplicates even though it’s a new job posting just for a job with the sample title. Using them in combination will maximize your chances of finding that dream job!

4. Hospital/Lab Specific Career Site

If you really have your heart set on working at a certain hospital or lab it’s best to also look straight from the source – their own careers page. Jobs can often be posted here before job search engines or also might slip through the cracks and not be posted to search engine at all! Once on the site, you might have the ability to pick what department you are looking for a job in but sometimes it’s best to select all jobs in case one was coded into the wrong department.

Example: The St.Michael’s Hospital Website

St.Mike's Careers

 

For a Public Health lab, Canadian Blood Services, or private lab, you can go straight to their site to see all their offering for the entire company.

5. LinkedIn

If you haven’t made a LinkedIn yet – MAKE ONE NOW! I talk about how to maximize your profile in my post on LinkedIn from earlier this year. LinkedIn is a great way to network with people you might not normally be able to talk to and can help expand your world of opportunities to jobs you might have not thought of! Some companies such as Canadian Blood Services and Public Health Ontario are even allowing you to apply with your LinkedIn profile so it’s a good idea to create one now!

Make connections with classmates, professors, lab directors and companies you might be interested in. They might know of a position coming up at their lab they can recommend you for or post jobs for friends in the lab community. Keeping a presence on LinkedIn can help you get ahead and be alerted to these postings or you can contact a lab director  yourself and ask if they might know of a position becoming available.

Along with jobs, LinkedIn can help you keep tabs on what the labs and hospitals are doing so if you have an interview you are able to speak confidently with their current direction.

6. Professional Association Site

The CSMLS and your provincial regulatory bodies (CMLTO, CMLTA, CMLTM etc) are another great place to check for postings. Quite often labs will go their first to give members an opportunity to apply before posting a position to the general public. It allows them to get certified members looking at their postings right away – usually meaning a better pool of candidates for them. I’ve put some handy links below for a few regulatory bodies job sites!

CSMLS Job Board – available once you log in to your account

CMLTO Job Board – Ontario

BCSLS Job Board – BC

SSMLT Job Board – Saskatchewan

I know the job search can be overwhelming – trying to make sure you see every posting and applying immediately so you don’t miss out. Hopefully this helps on your job search to make the best of it and to start your career as a Medical Laboratory Technologist!

-K

The CSMLS Exam – The End is Here!

Just a few weeks ago, On Thursday February 20th, 2014 I wrote my CSMLS certification exam. The last 2.5 years of my life have been building up this exam so I can finally work as a Medical Laboratory Technologist!

The morning of I was quite nervous to write the exam. I can’t remember how many times I checked to make sure I had packed my exam letter and ID with me en route to the exam.  I was staying with a friend so thankfully we had each other to calm down and try to remain sane. I was happy to write the exam back at my “home” base of the Michener gym where I had written many Med Lab exams over the past few years! Once we got there everything seemed to happen so fast – we went into the gym quickly to write and the next thing I knew we were tearing open our exam packages to write!

I imagine some students who are reading my blog are like me, and want to know the exact steps for the entire exam (ie: the registration, opening packages etc) so they feel prepared. I am a big visualizer and like to imagine my steps up to when I will be putting pen to paper to help me feel calm and ready. For those students here is how my exam day went down and please keep in mind the details will be different for each exam centre/day.

  • My exam started 9am so I arrived at the school for 8:30am. On my exam letter it specified I would be writing in the gym so I went and waited in the line of students with my exam day admission letter and my photo ID.
  • I was then checked in by last name by presenting my photo ID and exam letter and signed my name.
  • You placed any bags, notes, jackets, pens, pencils etc on the side of the room once you entered the gym.
  • Sit in any seat that had an exam package on the desk. The CSMLS supplied a mechanical pencil and calculator inside the envelope which you get to keep (woo!) after the exam.
Your very fancy calculator gift from the CSMLS

Your very fancy calculator gift from the CSMLS

  • Instructions were given out by the invigilators and at 9am you ripped open your package and began to write.
  • The first portion of the exam was 3 hours from 9am-12pm and the second portion was 1pm to 3:30pm. You are permitted to leave when you are finished unless it is the last 15 minutes, which then you are required to stay until the period is up.
  • When you are finished your exam you put EVERYTHING into the 2nd envelope, and I mean everything (at least that’s what we were told). The original envelope, trash etc. I used the check list provided on the bottom of the admission to the exam letter to make sure I put everything in the envelope. Then hand it in!
  • You’re done!

I cannot and will not disclose any information about the exam content due to confidentiality agreements signed. I do feel however the exam was what I expected and I left feeling “okay” about the whole thing. I don’t want to be overconfident so talk to me in a few weeks when I get my results and I can let you know how I feel then!

Once I get my results back I will do a “what I used to study” post to hopefully help answer any questions on what I used to prepare. I feel like I can’t write that post with authority without knowing if I passed or not.

If you wrote the exam in February, I hope you did well and wish you all the best entering the job market!

-K

Quest to the CSMLS Exam

Today officially marks 3 weeks, 2 days until I write the CSMLS exam. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I go through moments of panic and moments of calm depending on what subject I’m studying that day.  I can’t wait to write then start my search for a job!

I was asked for tips on studying and if I could share my notes by a reader last week. Unfortunately, I don’t have any notes available to share as I handwrite all of mine out but I recommend checking out the Quick Review Cards on Amazon as they summarize everything well. If I knew the secret to studying I would definitely share it!

If you are writing on February 20th, I wish you all the best of luck as well. I look forward to seeing you out in the lab!

-K